Friday, October 26, 2007

Wind energy will raise power bills

(submitted to Hays Daily News, Oct. 25)

I agree with Craig Volland (HDN Oct. 23) that power bills will be going up. However, I disagree when he says that "rates will increase less if we utilize our state's world class wind resources". In fact, nothing is going to raise our electricity rates faster than the installation of wind power. It is the most inefficient and overpriced form of power currently being flogged to consumers by 'green-posing' politicians and profit-hungry wind developers.

The real cost of wind power is staggering when you add it all up. Estimates indicate that it is 2.5-4.0 times more expensive than energy from conventional sources. But wind turbines must be sited where wind is suitable, rather than where power is needed, and 6% of that power is lost for every 100 miles it must travel to the end user. Distribution costs are also higher for wind power because more extensive power lines are required to connect it to the grid. Furthermore, the constantly fluctuating energy yield from wind is more expensive to integrate, raising the cost of grid management.

Higher costs might be socially acceptable if wind could actually replace coal-fired generation, but it can't. Wind power is unpredictable and will always require backup from a reliable, on-demand, source. The greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program referred to by Volland will provide wind power with yet another undeserved advantage over other forms of generation simply because there is no CO2 produced during its operation – this despite the hundreds of tons of CO2 released during the fabrication, transport and installation of each turbine.

Beyond the direct costs of wind power, we must also factor in the socio-economic and ecological costs. Foremost among these is the loss of property values, which reliable estimates suggest is about 30%, on average, for those unfortunate enough to become wind farm neighbors. Then there are many more costs that are difficult to quantify – the environmental and ecological impacts on vast tracts of land.

What price can we place on thousands of bats and soaring birds of prey destined to be sliced and diced by wind turbines? What monetary value can be assessed for lost quality of life, destruction of rural tranquility, noise pollution, and the unique human health risks associated with wind energy? These costs are all real and must be given due consideration whenever wind energy is compared to less environmentally intrusive forms of generation.

Due to deceptive government legislation, the high costs of wind power are being temporarily concealed from consumers in order to encourage its public acceptance. But don’t be fooled; power bills will rise dramatically in the next few years as government subsidies expire and utilities seek to recover the high maintenance costs associated with wind turbines. Almost half the capital cost of each turbine is the gearbox and current data from Germany indicate that these have a half life of less than five years. Within five years, wind developers will have run for cover with their 'windfall' profits and consumers will be left holding the bag – an industrial wasteland of decrepit monstrosities.

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